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HOME: Losing History In Housing Booms

May 25, 2022


In housing booms we see older homes simply disappear, replaced by new, larger ones: The “Tear Down” has accompanied every construction boom for the last two generations. Since the advent of HGTV a generation ago, “house flippers” have been glorified: those who gut and remake existing homes to make a killer sale. “Flipping” goes on steroids in a Housing Boom. The victim of this profit motive is often the history embedded in the home.

It is easy to sweep away the value of history in a building boom or cleave to the value of history as a religion, where everything old is superior to anything new, but some are seeing the value of using history, while addressing the realities we face ever day. That value may be Connecticut’s only indigenous resource. In this state, there are no precious minerals, oil, gas, or endless sandy beaches and clear blue water that people fly to partake of.

The value of anything simply reflects what we want. But value is not found just in the reality of “Historic Preservation”, but in the use of historic detailing and plan layouts that dominate so much of new housing in Connecticut, using the vaguely historicist “Colonial” echo of trim, symmetry, color, roof and detail often randomly applied to house designs that sell, because those details sell, because they have value.

Every boom is followed by a bust. Soon the tear-downs and radical “flipping”: will abate. But there will be less history left in our lives, and more simulations of it. History is not a religion, or the law. History, unique to human perception, is alive in us, every day. Since our buildings simply extend our values, history is a valuable resource, not just in Connecticut, but wherever it exists in every place that harbors us, even in a housing boom.

Joining us are three unique visions of the value of history. Jason Bischoff-Wurstle is well known to those who listen to WPKN on his show “The Relay” but he is also a director of the New Haven Museum, and creates incredible exhibits there. William Hosley is the Principal of Terra Firma Northeast, an organization focusing on the history and culture of our region, and has been a vital part of the Wadsworth Atheneum and other museums. Paul Edmondson is a national figure in Historic Preservation – in fact, he is the President and CEO of The National Trust For Historic Preservation, after 20 years as its General Counsel, and before that, being an archeologist.

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